Category Archives: Archived

Thoughts on the Massacre in Atlanta

This is Randy Park, one of the sons of Hyun Jung Grant, a victim of the horrendous massacre that took place this past week in Atlanta. He said she was a mother “who dedicated her whole life to providing for my brother and I.” And that “she was one of my best friends and the strongest influence on who we are today. Losing her has put a new lens on my eyes on the amount of hate that exists in our world.”

But the Cherokee County Police were more sympathetic to her killer and his “really bad day.” They wasted no time explaining that he was “fed up” and “at the end of his rope” and dealing with the “temptation” of “sexual addiction.” They immediately, without even a hint of hesitation, ruled out a racist motive for the crime. But it didn’t take long for people to find racist themes throughout his social media. So regardless of the “day” he was having, his “feelings” do not deserve to be centered. His racism and misogyny do.

Anti-Asian rhetoric gained momentum over the past year with the pandemic. Attacks, ridicule and casual hate speech. I saw the anti-China crusade being ramped up under Trump, but it is continuing even now under the new Biden administration. To think that this does not have an impact is ridiculous.

And, as in the case of George Floyd, the women who were murdered are now being slandered in some parts of the press because they may have been sex workers. We don’t really know if this is true, but would it matter? It is time to make it clear that sex work IS work. And no one who does it deserves violence.

May Hyun Jung Grant and the seven other victims rest in peace. And may their families gain the strength to rebuild their lives from the wreckage of this devastating attack.

Kenn Orphan March 2021

As an independent writer and artist Kenn Orphan depends on donations and commissions. If you would like to support his work and this blog you can do so via PayPal. Simply click here:  DONATE

And thank you for your support and appreciation!

what does it say of us

what does it say of us
who live at the tail end of industrial hubris
on a sphere
adrift in space
without any other voice
we can hear nor comprehend
 
we who live
beneath the icy sheen of ozone in a viscous goo so rich
with all manner of life
that it is the envy of empty orbs
for lightyears around
and we yet we want more
newts, antelope,
amoebas, pines, moths
panthers, willows, scorpions
all manner of fungi
and moss
and bacteria
and fauna
and flora
what does it say of our times
when an era replaces the living
with barcodes
and then encases them in plastic
or sprays them
with chemicals
 
what does it say of our morality
whose flags and bombs and rulers and celebrities
garner more honour than our kin
and whose borders carve up the warm loam
of whence we came
and where we shall return
pollywogs, carps,
hornbills, banyans, hydras
lemurs, wasps, mold
all manner of fungi
and moss
and bacteria
and fauna
and flora
what does it say of our existence
who lie about what it means
to possess a body
attached to this mortal coil
yet casually replace it
with pixelated zeros and ones
 
our moments are scattered
like the dust we breathe in
and time we experience
is limited
even as we treat it as a bane
to be idle
 
what, then, does it say of us
 
Kenn Orphan  March 2021

 

*Photo is by Kenn Orphan. It is the silhouette of a howler monkey, and was taken in the rainforests of Nicaragua. 

As an independent writer and artist Kenn Orphan depends on donations and commissions. If you would like to support his work and this blog you can do so via PayPal. Simply click here: DONATE

And thank you for your support and appreciation!

The Amazon Chernobyl is a Warning for Us All

“We must answer their call. Our Mother Earth, militarized, fenced-in, poisoned, a place where basic rights are systematically violated, demands that we take action. Let us build societies that are able to coexist in a dignified way, in a way that protects life. Let us come together and remain hopeful as we defend and care for the blood of the Earth and of its spirits.” – Berta Caceres, Indigenous rights and environmental activist of the Lenca people, murdered in Honduras in 2016

If there is one glaring truth of the 21st century, it is that Indigenous people are at the forefront of a war being waged against the living earth itself. From the Athabasca to the Niger Delta to the Ecuadorian Amazon, the fossil fuel industry, along with other extractive industries, are drenched in the blood of countless innocent people and responsible for ecological annihilation on a scale that is unimaginable. With all of this comes global impunity. These industries enjoy legal protection from the most powerful state entities on earth. Their crimes, of which we are all a victim, go unpunished.

There are few better examples of how the fossil fuel industry operates with impunity than in Chevron-Texaco’s deliberate destruction of the Ecuadorian Amazon, often referred to as the “Amazon Chernobyl” due to the scale of the catastrophe. From 1964 to 1992 Texaco, the company acquired by Chevron with all of its liabilities, polluted a 1700 square mile swath of pristine rainforest. In its lust for profits, the company cut corners and dumped at least 19 billion gallons of toxic water into the environment. It discharged 17 million gallons of crude into unlined pits, some as deep as 30 feet, on the forest floor. There is no telling how many species succumbed to the horrors of such unbridled greed.

But this is also a story of environmental racism. For decades, Indigenous people of this region were told that the oil was no threat to them. On the contrary, many of them were told that it had medicinal value and contained “vitamins.” Thousands of people used that water. They drank it, cooked with it, bathed in it, oblivious to the danger. After seeing a spike in birth defects and cancers, that danger became increasingly clear. Unable to relocate because of crushing, imposed poverty, they are forced to live in this human-made disaster area, even though it is slowly killing them.

Despite losing its legal battle, as well as an appeal to the highest court in Ecuador which ordered them to pay 9.5 billion USD for clean up and healthcare for the communities affected by its crime, Chevron has yet to pay a dime. Even the Hague, that supposed bastion of justice that wastes no time prosecuting African dictators, sided with Chevron’s corporate criminals.

And the company has done everything it can to persecute its victims, and hold them responsible for its own malfeasance. It has ruthlessly gone after the Indigenous people who dared oppose it, as well as their defenders. One is human rights lawyer, Steven Donziger, who was largely to thank for winning the case against Chevron. He has been under house arrest for nearly 600 days due to a spurious charge by a judge well known to be in the pocket of Big Business.

Indeed, Chevron is attempting to use an American statute, once reserved for prosecuting the Mafia, on Indigenous land and water defenders, environmentalists, and anyone who stands in solidarity with them. The ramifications for this are, of course, chilling to say the least. If they succeed, there is nothing to stop other corporate abusers in going after Indigenous people elsewhere, or other human and environmental rights activists.

Of course Chevron is not alone. The industries responsible for carving the great, festering wound in the living loam of the earth, known as the Alberta Tar Sands, have managed to suppress information regarding adverse health affects on Indigenous people in that region for many years. Even in this case, it is environmental racism writ large with health authorities blaming Indigenous people’s illnesses on “poor eating habits, obesity and smoking” rather than the obvious pollution being spewed into the atmosphere or poured into waterways from nearby plants. They routinely side with Big Oil against Indigenous people and the biosphere in one of the most greenwashed countries in the world.

And in the Niger Delta, one of the most important wetland regions on the planet, Royal Dutch Shell has been systematically devastating wildlife and water for decades with near impunity. Gas flares contaminate the air with benzene, causing birth defects and cancer among the Indigenous communities. Over the past fifty years an estimated 1.5 million tons of oil has spilled into the ecosystem.

Shell’s ecological destruction goes hand in hand with its brutal suppression of human rights. Its presence in the Niger Delta has brought deforestation, water pollution and poverty. Nearly 85 percent of all oil revenues go to less than 1% of the population in a country where, according to the African Development Bank, more than 70 percent live on less than one US dollar per day.

None of this would be possible without the marriage of the corporation and the state. Shell has had a long history of assisting and directing the Nigerian military in the violent suppression of dissent and protest; and Indigenous environmental activist Ken Saro-Wiwa presented a problem to the oil giant in that he organized defiance of their destruction of Ogoni lands. On November 10, 1995, Saro-Wiwa was among nine other Ogoni activists murdered after being convicted in a kangaroo court at the behest of the company. Today, the plunder and devastation of the Niger Delta continues.

For decades fossil fuel industries, as well as other extractive companies and corporations, have managed to wreak devastation on our fragile biosphere with no consequence for their crimes. Indeed, they have succeeded in controlling a weak global judiciary beholden to corporate interests. But humanity is in an existential crisis like never before. We can no longer stand idly by while the corporate state ravages our world and our future before our eyes. Indigenous people have been calling for us to recognize the deathward trajectory of our political and economic order for centuries. And if we continue to ignore their plea for sanity it will be at our collective peril.

Kenn Orphan March 2021

As an independent writer and artist Kenn Orphan depends on donations and commissions. If you would like to support his work and this blog you can do so via PayPal. Simply click here:  DONATE

And thank you for your support and appreciation!

On Meghan, Racism, Money and Mental Health

This week I posted a thought regarding the Oprah interview with Meghan Markle and (former) Prince Harry. It read:

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s combined net worth is estimated at around $50 million USD.
The British monarchy’s estimated net worth is, at least, $88 billion USD. Can we stop acting like their problems are our problems?
Can we admit intersectionality has material limits?

Following this post I was accused of being “judgmental,” of downplaying racism in all of the social classes, and of “making fun of mental health.” In fact, my post made no mention of Meghan’s mental health. It did not say racism wasn’t a problem regardless of class either. And there was nothing inherently judgmental about it. But for some reason, it was a trigger for an avalanche of comments and even personal messages that consisted of attempted shaming, virtue signaling and straw man fallacies.

There is little doubt in my mind that Meghan Markle experienced racism after entering the royal family. This is an ancient system founded on the feudal idea of the “divine right” of one person ruling absolutely over all others and enforcing a cultural hierarchy of strict class boundaries based almost exclusively on the myth of genetic pedigree, after all. How anyone could think racism isn’t a major feature of this institution is beyond me.

But there is a gigantic elephant in the room that most Americans, including most liberals, refuse to acknowledge: capitalism. Most of us have been conditioned to sympathize with the celebrity and wealth class. This is no accident. Billions of dollars are spent to achieve this goal. This is not to say that we should not naturally identify with famous people. We are all human beings after all. It is to say that there is an entire industry which artificially reinforces this identification. And to continue to ignore this or its enormous influence would be foolish.

Americans have been inured to adopt the erroneous view that everyone is on a level playing field. That wealth doesn’t make any real difference regarding access to care or other material supports. By this logic, the person living on the street, eating from dumpsters, and avoiding the cops, is in essentially the same position as the wealthy stock broker who suffers from PTSD in his Manhattan penthouse. It is such a feat of staggering cognitive dissonance and illogic that it is almost impossible to explain.

Without a doubt racism, homophobia, misogyny, transphobia, mental health issues, and other social maladies are experienced by all human beings across all class and caste distinctions. Meghan Markle is no different in this regard. But to suggest that her experience with these things is the same as a person with little or no material wealth is simply ludicrous. And calling attention to this fact does not diminish Markle’s experience with racism, depression or suicidal ideation in the least. Money and wealth may not buy happiness, but they give a person access to far more options for comfort and support. Of course, she may have been told not to seek out help by members of the royal family, but she was not a prisoner. The UK is not Saudi Arabia, a medieval kingdom where princesses ARE actually held against their will.

On a more personal note, the post didn’t just trigger something for others. The responses triggered something in me. I was suddenly finding myself feeling a sense of panic. I am familiar with that feeling because I have dealt with mental health issues myself throughout my life. Depression, anxiety, despair. I have dealt with them all. I was sexually assaulted a long time ago, so I know what PTSD is. I had a time in my life where I did hard drugs as an escape, and they almost made me go mad. I even contemplated suicide a few times. So to be accused of making fun of mental health felt even more insulting and hurtful. And it was for the sole reason of daring to bring up those forbidden topics in Western circles, wealth disparity and capitalism. That was just too much for me to be silent about.

I have had times in my life where I was flat broke. Where I experienced mental health crises in the United States and had no health insurance to cover the costs of any kind of meaningful treatment because I was between jobs. I know what that kind of desperation feels like. In contrast, I have had times where I had some money in the bank and some access to good care. There is no one on earth who can tell me that the two experiences are the same. No one who can suggest that the wealthy have it just as bad as the poor. And it is insulting, not only to me, but to billions of working and poor people to suggest so.

I will admit that my post may have been flippant. And I have empathy with Meghan Markle. For the racism she endures and the mental health crisis she went through. But the bulk of my compassion and solidarity goes out to (and will always go out to) those who have no material wealth to speak of, most of which are people of colour. Far more than those caught up in a system that has manufactured a false supremacy of lineage. On a dying planet, I think humans have the creative acumen to come up with a better arrangement. So if that makes me “judgmental,” then I will wear that badge with pride.

Kenn Orphan March 2021

As an independent writer and artist Kenn Orphan depends on donations and commissions. If you would like to support his work and this blog you can do so via PayPal. Simply click here:  DONATE

And thank you for your support and appreciation!

On Plastic Potato Heads, Seuss and the Machine of Manufactured Outrage

“This is the end of freedom,” declared the definitive talking potato head himself, Glenn Beck. He was speaking about Hasbro’s decision to drop the “Mister” pronoun from their “Potato Head” toy. In fact, there will still be Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head characters respectively. The company just decided to remove the male descriptor “Mister” as the primary name of the brand. The same week, Dr. Seuss Enterprises decided to drop six books from the popular franchise due to their obviously racist portrayals of Asian and Black people. And on the conservative end of the internet, all hell broke loose.

The machine of manufactured outrage at both decisions went into high gear. There were headlines. Talking heads gnashing teeth. Memes generated in a nanosecond. Apparently, civilization itself was crumbling before our eyes. Never mind the fact that actual potato plants are self pollinators and possess both male and female flowers. Never mind that gender is essentially fluid and conditioned on multiple factors. Never mind that the outrage was over a plastic toy. In regard to Seuss, never mind that thousands of Japanese Americans were thrown into concentration camps not long after the publication of his infamous cartoons, which came at the height of anti-Japanese sentiment in the US.

One must wonder what goes through the heads of people who become enraged over decisions that are crafted to be more sensitive toward people who have been historically dispossessed and marginalized. One must wonder at a society that is more concerned about the physical characteristics of a plastic toy than the fact that this plastic toy will likely persist as refuse for thousands of years to come. Or that a few books from a beloved writer, arguably his worst, will no longer be promoted on the same level as his other works. In the minds of many on the far right or conservatives, this is emblematic of “cancel culture” run amok.

But it is important to keep in mind that the loudest voices decrying “censorship” and “cancel culture” in this instance didn’t seem to have that problem with canceling Colin Kaepernick for taking the knee as a silent protest against racist police violence. And there is a reason for this. This crowd does not mind it when the voices of those who are different, or non-traditional, or non-conforming are silenced. Those who have been historically held under the knee of the dominant society. But they do mind it a great deal when their reactionary values and mores are challenged. They don’t mind it when voices that criticize murderous US militarism or unbridled capitalism or feckless nationalism are stifled. But they do mind it a great deal when those who dissent from these things are given a platform to voice their positions.

I loathe censorship. It is vile when governments do it. But I especially hate it when corporations do it because, outside of their shareholders, they are unaccountable for their decisions. And if anyone is familiar with the latter, it would be me. I was “de-platformed” last month thanks to a draconian algorithmic Facebook purge following the insurrection at the US Capitol on January 6th, and it was all based on the use of a politically charged term. I have since gained back my “platform” thanks to help from a friend of a friend who works for the company, however the experience has made me especially sensitive to anything that smacks of censorship.

As far as Hasbro and Seuss are concerned, nothing has been canceled. No toys were buried. No books were burned. In truth, none of this is about censorship. It is about a cynical media machine that has been in the business of manufacturing outrage in order to distract the public from more pressing or dire concerns, atrocities, or the malfeasance of its ruling class for decades. After all, Yemen is still being decimated and starved by a murderous medieval kingdom supported by the West. Racist police state violence and the carceral state continues to ruin lives and cause immeasurable misery. Billions are still languishing under imposed poverty. Thousands of people are still dying from the pandemic, all as the biosphere continues to be polluted and burned for profit. But don’t pay attention to any of that.

FYI, if anyone wants to purchase those six racist books they still can. And they can read them while they build the most hyper-masculine, patriarchal, plastic potato head of their wildest dreams. So apparently all this hype was just that: hype.

Kenn Orphan March 2021

As an independent writer and artist Kenn Orphan depends on donations and commissions. If you would like to support his work and this blog you can do so via PayPal. Simply click here:  DONATE

And thank you for your support and appreciation!

On Beauty and Imperfection

There is a Japanese aesthetic practice known as kintsugi 金継ぎ, or kintsukuroi 金繕い, that I fell in love with several years ago when I first learned of it in an art course I was taking. It is based on the tradition of wabi-sabi 侘寂 which is a worldview that embraces impermanence and imperfection. It involves taking a broken piece of pottery and repairing it with lacquer mixed with gold or silver. But the repair does not conceal the cracks. On the contrary, it accentuates them to demonstrate their imperfection as beauty.


I’ve thought about this concept a lot over the years, especially in regard to my own life. The tendency in our culture is to feel shame for our brokenness or damage. To be humiliated by our differentness. To be embarrassed by age and infirmity. To obscure our wounds, as if they were never there to begin with. But this concealment has never made sense to me.


We are all imperfect beings, broken by the careless or deliberate actions of others, sometimes by ourselves, sometimes by the world. I believe it is in this imperfection where the potential of beauty lives. Our wounds are cuts sown into the loam of our soul. And it is only in those wounds that seeds can be planted. To expose them to the wrong kind of seed can cause more trauma and heartache. But to hide them completely puts a halt to growth, an end to empathy, and it makes living an empty show of banal conformity.


Our bodies are mortal. From the soft, warm womb they climb up toward the light of day. But after the days of youth have faded, those moments where many of us think we are invincible, those bodies will age and crack and bend to the whims of time and the indifference of the elements. Eventually, the flesh that enwraps our organs will become sallow. Our bones, those unsung heroes of physicality that hold us up every day, will disintegrate to dust.


But this impermanence is also the source of creation. It is eternal. And from brokenness comes something new. The wounds inflicted on us by this life can be mended, but their seams should never be concealed. After all, they are the highest form of beauty. Imperfection allows atoms to marry, genes to descend, and canyons to be carved. From it comes music and art and spoken word. It should gain our greatest gratitude, because without it, we would not even be here to begin with.

Kenn Orphan March 2021

*Title image is a Japanese bowl repaired in the tradition of kintsugi.

As an independent writer and artist Kenn Orphan depends on donations and commissions. If you would like to support his work and this blog you can do so via PayPal. Simply click here:  DONATE

And thank you for your support and appreciation!

Remembering Lawrence Ferlinghetti

I remember the first time I wandered into City Lights Bookstore. It was on my first trip alone to San Francisco, and it was like no other bookstore I had ever been in.


I was in my twenties and in awe of the array of topics I could choose from. Radical and vital. Subjects which were usually forbidden, censored or severely curtailed by most mainstream publishers and bookstores. Voices I had never heard before, about things I knew little to nothing about. And all affordable.


So I was really saddened to hear about the death of Lawrence Ferlinghetti, poet and founder of this amazing establishment. He opened a world to me and countless others, who desperately needed that door cracked wide open. He made it to 101 years of age.
In a time where the threat to expression and speech has seldom been higher, with corporate interests and the surveillance state joining forces, emboldened to tighten their grip on deciding the very future of human discourse and language, Ferlinghetti’s vision and courage has never been so needed.


May he rest in peace and in power, and may we carry the torch he lit so many years ago forward.


“If you would be a poet, create works capable of answering the challenge of
apocalyptic times, even if this meaning sounds apocalyptic.
You are Whitman, you are Poe, you are Mark Twain, you are Emily Dickinson and Edna St. Vincent Millay, you are Neruda and Mayakovsky and Pasolini, you are an American or a non-American, you can conquer the conquerors with words.”

— Lawrence Ferlinghetti. From Poetry as Insurgent Art


Lawrence Ferlinghetti (March 24, 1919 – February 22, 2021)

 

Kenn Orphan February 2021

As an independent writer and artist Kenn Orphan depends on donations and commissions. If you would like to support his work and this blog you can do so via PayPal. Simply click here:  DONATE

And thank you for your support and appreciation!

Rush Limbaugh and the Echoes of Hatred

When I was attending a Christian college in the States in the 90s, I remember hearing the broadcasts of Rush Limbaugh blasting from some of the rooms of the dormitory where I was housed. At the time I remember feeling astonished that anyone could listen to this man for any length of time. Beyond his noxious rhetoric, I found his very cadence to be akin to stab wounds.

Of course, I was leftwing, antiwar, antiracist, anti-capitalist and queer. I wasn’t exactly his demographic. But the tone was unmistakable. It was one of cruelty. Of ridicule. Of dehumanization. Of hatred. And it felt like a battering. That it appealed to many self-professed American Christians at the school I attended was telling. Rush was, to them, a “culture warrior.” Battling “the gays, the blacks and the godless, anti-American communists.”

Fast forward from then to now. Fast forward through the Clinton years and his expansion of the racist carceral state. Fast forward through the Bush years and his murderous war based on lies against a country that never attacked the US. Fast forward through the revelations of war crimes leaked to the public thanks to the courage of Chelsea Manning and Julian Assange. Fast forward through the relentless attacks on civil liberties. Fast forward through the photographs of horror from the US gulag of Abu Ghraib. Fast forward through Obama’s drone wars, attacks on whistleblowers, and record deportations. And arrive just four years ago at the so-called “Trump era.”

Like Limbaugh, Trump revels in sadism. He has never hid his animus toward women or his visceral racism. He denied climate change and courted more war with his expansion of militarism. But he was a symptom of a greater diseased culture. An echo of the myth of “American exceptionalism.”

How we measure time is important. It is a metric that is not merely linear. It is a tumbler overflowing with events and trends. Of thoughts and actions, of policies and projections, both conscious and not. Limbaugh was one of many harbingers of America’s trajectory. When we look at it through this lens it should not come as a surprise that America ended up with Trump four years ago. But if we stop there, we will miss where it is headed now.

Limbaugh didn’t simply emerge out of nowhere. Neither did Trump. Their animus and cruelty arose from the collective psychic projection of the entire American project itself. A white Christian settler’s dream of “Manifest Destiny” that ended in massacres, genocide and the trail of tears. It was a slave owning empire that expanded via exploitation and brutality.

If we know this, we must also know that there was never any noble era in the official narrative of American history. Not in its experiments on unsuspecting Black men at Tuskegee. Not in the ash shadows on the pavement of civilians vaporized in Hiroshima. Not in the internment of Japanese citizens in concentration camps. Not in Jim Crow. Not in the nuclear bomb tests which irradiated the people of the Marshall Islands. Not in the ditches of Mỹ Lai. All of it led us to where we are now. And if recent history is any guide, political platitudes and niceties will not shield us from the consequences of such dark hubris.

We don’t know what Limbaugh’s inner life was like. We shouldn’t care too much, because the man spent most it lashing out at his opponents, dehumanizing or ridiculing others, especially those who were vulnerable or oppressed by society, and spreading falsehoods. The latter was especially true when it came to climate change and pandemic. But if we don’t recognize that his voice was a bellowing echo of America itself, a long cadence of cruelty, we will never understand that this trajectory has never been altered.

None of this should be disheartening if we do not subscribe to the American enterprise. There are other narratives, ones which have constantly and relentlessly challenged the cruelty of the dominant one. From the Abolitionists, to women’s suffrage, to the labor movement, to Civil Rights, to antiwar, to Indigenous resistance, to queer liberation, to environmental consciousness. All of them presented counter voices to the one echoed by vile figures such as Limbaugh or Trump. All of them have offered conduits for dissent. We need only the ears to hear.

One day, when one of Limbaugh’s vicious broadcasts was blaring from one of the rooms of that college I attended, I also heard the faint sound of a guitar playing outside. I longed to escape this torment, so I wandered out the door, following the sounds, to a nearby park where I found a small group of people sitting in the grass under a tree. They were singing about peace and solidarity, and warmly waved me over to join them. Then, after a few minutes, something miraculous happened. I no longer heard the stinging timbre of that man who has just died. His echo of hatred was finally silenced, then, as it is now.

Kenn Orphan February 2021

As an independent writer and artist Kenn Orphan depends on donations and commissions. If you would like to support his work and this blog you can do so via PayPal. Simply click here:  DONATE

And thank you for your support and appreciation!

This is America

The message above was posted by Tim Boyd, the former mayor of Colorado City, Texas, in response to the record freezing temperatures ravaging his state. At least 23 people have died due to the failure of the electrical grid and cold weather. He has since resigned due to the public outrage that ensued.

It’s good that Tim Boyd was disgraced by his words. They were abhorrent, after all. But let’s not kid ourselves to think that what he believes is beyond the pale in America.

Let’s not forget about the Portland supermarket that just threw away mountains of “perishable items” after a winter storm knocked out power to much of the city. They then had the police guard the dumpsters from hungry people who also suffered from the power outages and simply wanted to forage for food.

But this is nothing new. On the contrary, it is standard practice. I saw it with my own eyes when I was a social work intern in Los Angeles with the houseless. The supermarket next door routinely doused their day old bread with bleach before tossing it in the dumpster, rather than give to those in desperate need.

When I drove across the US a few years ago I witnessed desperate poverty in scores of American cities and towns. Places sacrificed or carved up at the corporation’s pleasure. But there was also a prevailing cultural message that any suffering a person endured was the result of personal failure. Not the economic or material conditions one is born into. Not imposed poverty. Not racist, homophobic or misogynistic barriers.

America is a place where the idea of cooperation is routinely scoffed at, and the myth of individualism endlessly lauded. It is a place where the snide sadistic mentality of “pull yourself up by your own bootstraps” is constantly rubbed in the faces of the poor, the historically oppressed and the disenfranchised, by the wealthy and powerful.

This is a place where televangelists preach prosperity as a sign of Divine favor. Feeding the multitudes, as Jesus did, is not the preferred parable. It is a place where celebrity billionaires like Oprah Winfrey present themselves as spiritual gurus and chide the suffering for not “taking responsibility for their lives,” while ignoring the entrenched systems of injustice that make life a misery for millions every single day. And it is a psychosis that has become internalized at every level of society.

So let’s not kid ourselves about Tim Boyd’s post. He did a great job at summing up the prevailing ethos of the American Empire, the last fortress for late capitalism. And let’s not pretend that the actions of that supermarket and the police in Portland were out of the ordinary. These are merely the symptoms of a diseased culture. An ethos of barbarism that has been elevated to a state religion. And the ruling class evangelizes the world with this propaganda by coercion and distraction. Endless militarism and wars abroad, endless cruelties and humiliation meted out on the working class and poor at home. The god of America is the power of wealth and its worship. And until this is reckoned with, none of its maladies will go away.

Kenn Orphan February 2021

*Title image is Portland police officers guarding the dumpster of a local grocery store. Courtesy of OregonLive.

As an independent writer and artist Kenn Orphan depends on donations and commissions. If you would like to support his work and this blog you can do so via PayPal. Simply click here:  DONATE

And thank you for your support and appreciation!

Remembering Mourid Barghouti, Palestinian Poet, Writer and Humanitarian

My Grandfather’s Cloak

 

My grandfather, still harbouring the illusion

that all is well with the world,

fills his countryside pipe

for the last time

before the advent of the helmets and bulldozers.

 

On the bulldozer’s teeth

my grandfather’s cloak gets hooked.

 

The bulldozer retreats a few yards,

empties its load,

comes back to fill its huge fork

and has never had enough.

 

Twenty times, the bulldozer

comes and goes,

my grandfather’s cloak still hooked on it.

 

After the dust and smoke

had cleared from the house that had been standing there

and as I was staring at the new emptiness

I saw my grandfather

wearing his cloak,

 

wearing the very same cloak,

not one that was similar

but the very same.

 

He hugged me and maintained a silent gaze

as if his look

ordained the rubble to become a house,

restored the curtains to the windows,

brought my grandmother back to her armchair,

and retrieved her coloured pills,

put back the sheets on the bed,

the lights on the ceiling,

the pictures on the walls,

as if his look brought the handles back to the doors

and the balconies to the stars,

as if it made us resume our dinner,

as if the world had not collapsed,

as if heaven had ears and eyes.

 

He went on staring at the emptiness.

I said: What shall we do after the soldiers leave?

What will he do after the soldiers leave?

He slowly clenched his fist

recapturing a boxer’s resolve in his right hand,

his coarse bronze hand,

the hand which had tamed the thorny slope,

the hand which holds his hoe lightly

and with ease like prayer,

his hand which can split a tree stump with a single blow,

his hand open for forgiveness,

his hand closed on sweets to surprise his grandchildren,

his hand amputated

years ago.

Mourid Barghouti, Palestinian poet and writer, 8 July 1944 – 14 February 2021.

May he rest in peace.

*Title art piece by Palestinian artist Khaled Al-Maazi.

Kenn Orphan February 2021

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